SPOKANE, Wash. — Oregon’s run to the Elite Eight last season was a delightful surprise. This year, the Ducks made it with a more businesslike attitude.
Asked if the team was elated to be returning to the regional finals after beating Central Michigan 83-69 on Saturday, guard Sabrina Ionescu replied: “Define elation.”
“We have high expectations of ourselves,” she said.
Ionescu just missed another triple-double with 16 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds for second-seeded Oregon, which jumped on No. 11 seed Central Michigan early in their Spokane Region semifinal and never really let up.
Ruthy Hebard had 23 points and 14 rebounds.
“This year it’s known we deserve to be where we are,” Ionescu said. “It’s more where we should be than jumping up for joy.”
Oregon coach Kelly Graves agreed.
“When we are 33-4, we have high expectations,” he said.
Lexi Bando added 14 points for Oregon (33-4), which won its 12th game in a row. The Ducks will play top-seeded Notre Dame in the regional final on Monday.
Tinara Moore had 23 points and 14 rebounds for Central Michigan (30-5), which won its first two NCAA Tournament games in program history this year. Presley Hudson added 15 points on 6-of-21 shooting.
The Chippewas were doomed by poor shooting, making just 36 percent of their shots to 49 percent for Oregon.
Oregon led 24-12 after a first quarter in which the Ducks shot 55 percent while holding Central Michigan to 29 percent.
Oregon was ahead 40-25 at halftime behind an efficient 16 points from Hebard on 8-of-12 shooting from inside. The taller Ducks held a 26-10 advantage in the paint during the first half.
“She was real dialed in offensively,” Graves said. “Tonight was Ruthy’s night.”
The Chippewas shot only 29.7 percent in the first half. Hudson, who averages 18 points per game, was scoreless until she hit a 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer.
The 25 points were the least in a first half for the Chippewas this season.
Central Michigan got untracked in the third quarter, with Hudson and Cassie Breen each hitting a pair of 3-pointers to cut Oregon’s lead to 55-46. But the Ducks outscored the Chippewas 11-2 the rest of the period to take a 66-48 lead into the fourth.
Moore scored 15 points in the fourth, but it wasn’t enough to make up the deficit.
“It came down to the first quarter,” Central Michigan coach Sue Guevara said. “We had some open looks, looks that usually go in, that did not go in.
“If we could have got our outside game going a little bit, I think it would have helped our inside game,” she added.
Both teams generally feature fine 3-point shooting, but it wasn’t on display. Oregon leads the nation at .406 percent from beyond the arc, but the Ducks made just a third of their tries. Central Michigan also didn’t hit its season average, going 7 of 27 from downtown. “Two really good 3-point shooting teams really struggled tonight,” Graves said.
WALL OF DUCKS
Oregon blocked 11 shots.
Oregon managed only a 46-44 advantage in rebounds, but the Ducks did get 16 offensive boards that seemed to come at key moments, Guevara said.
Graves noted his team gave up 22 offensive boards. “We can’t allow 22 offensive rebounds on Monday night or we will get blown out,” he said.
Central Michigan: The Chippewas wrapped up the finest season in the program’s 50-year history. “I told them that I was so proud of them,” Guevara said. “We just kept fighting. We just couldn’t get over that hump.” Central Michigan forward Reyna Frost noted the significance of the season. “We made history at this school,” she said.
Oregon: The Ducks showed plenty of depth and sound defense in beating the Chippewas, who average 82 points per game. Graves also said his team showed poise. “We won by double digits and are moving on,” he said. “We have earned the right to be here.”
Oregon plays Notre Dame, a 90-84 winner over Texas A&M, in the Spokane Region final on Monday evening.
More AP college basketball: https://collegebasketball.ap.org ; https://twitter.com/AP_Top25 and https://www.podcastone.com/ap-sports-special-events